REVIEW: 2016 Acura RDX AWD Advance – Premium Sportiness

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The Acura RDX isn’t as edgy as it was at first, but it has matured into a comfortable and satisfying premium crossover.

What is it? 

The RDX is Acura‘s entry into the luxury compact-crossover market. The RDX was significantly redesigned for 2013, and the ’16 incorporated a bunch of updates.

As of this May 2016 writing, the 2017 model has already hit the Acura website, and changes from the previous year are mostly trim-related.

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Pricing and trims

Since Acura has moved on to putting forward the 2017 model, we’ll use 2017 numbers for our price breakdown.

RDXs start at $35,370 for the base front-wheel drive trim, and there are four trims above base to add the chunks of features you’d want.

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All-wheel drive on any trim adds $1,500 to the total. The tested RDX was the top Advance trim with all-wheel drive, and it checked out at $45,400.

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Premium features would be one reason you’d choose a luxury crossover over something more mainstream, like the Honda CR-V from which this RDX draws its lineage. This Advance sported niceties like rain-sensing wipers…

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…and the front seats were heated and cooled.

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Safety

AcuraWatch is Acura’s suite of active safety features. It adds $1,300 and includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), adaptive cruise control and a color information screen.

Blind spot warnings and rear cross-traffic alerts are separate from AcuraWatch and are included in RDXs with the Technology Package.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the RDX highly in its crash tests. The AcuraWatch-equipped RDX nearly tops the crash avoidance and mitigation ratings, and when the RDX crashes, it appears to crash well.

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Performance

The first RDX had a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the current one has a 3.5-liter V6 that’s good for 279 horsepower. It’s everything you’d want, with smoothness and a quick response backing up the strong surge that’s available pretty much whenever you need it.

There are more powerful choices – the 2017 Cadillac XT5‘s 3.6-liter V6 thumps out 310 horses – but the RDX’s 22 mpg overall EPA fuel economy rating has a one-mpg advantage over the XT5‘s.

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The transmission is a six-speed automatic, which eschews the more economy-oriented CVT unit employed by the Honda CR-V. Shifts are crisp, and moving the lever to S notably sharpens the transmission’s response.

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Ride and handling

Over-the-road composure is one of the RDX’s best aspects. It’s rare to find a Honda product that does not handle with baseline competence, and the RDX’s suspension takes that up a few notches, with its nice blend of firmness and compliance. There’s decent steering feel, and the RDX’s body motions are tightly controlled.

The 18-inch wheels wear high-performance Michelin all-season tires, and they stuck well in our sunny week with the RDX.

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Seating

The 10-way power driver’s seat that come with the Advance package is grippy like a sport seat, but it’s still broad enough for those who have larger frames. Shoulder support is in ample supply…

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…and taller drivers will love the way the bottom cushion tips up for plenty of thigh support. Being able dial yourself in so thoroughly enhances the RDX’s sporty feel.

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Rear seats are roomy and accommodating. They don’t recline as the rear seats in the cheaper Honda CR-V do, but the RDX’s 38 inches of legroom rival that of a large sedan’s.

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The rear floor is nearly flat, which adds to the impression of roominess.

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Cargo

There’s less space in the back an Acura RDX when compared to a Honda CR-V: he RDX has 26.1 cubic feet of space, while the CR-V has 37.2 cubic feet.

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Fold down the rear seats, and the RDX expands that number to 61.3, which is smaller than the nearly 71 inches available in the CR-V.

The seats fold down easily with a flick of the levers on the side panels, and the area is beautifully finished – maybe almost too beautifully, as it may not take long for the light-grey carpeting to become marked up with use.

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There’s an actual spare tire under the cargo floor, along with narrow trays for very small items.

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The Advance has a power-operated tail gate, and it adds a second pull-down handle.

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Infotainment and controls

The RDX’s double-screen setup will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Honda in the last few years, and Acura thankfully continues to supply a knob to control the sound system, which Honda-branded cars have been deleting.

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Hard buttons that allow you to move through the main functions – navigation, phone, audio, etc. – and the big center knob is a boon when moving through those screen functions. It becomes familiar enough that you can operate much of it with only a brief look away from the road ahead.

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Overall

The Acura RDX started in the late-2000s as a stiff-riding crossover with a turbocharged engine. This newest V6-equipped RDX is very different by comparison, with a calmer and more refined feel.

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As something is gained, something else can be lost, and the edgy personality of that first RDX is distilled down to something more palatable for mainstream crossover buyers. That’s a tough balance for Acura, as it aims to appeal broadly while still coming across with a compelling message of power and performance.

But buyers are liking what they see. Last year, the RDX set a single-year sales record, and the RDX is still hot, and it is handily outselling the Lexus NX. We’d like to see a little more personality in the driving experience, but there’s no question of the appeal of the RDX’s total package.

Shopping for a new or used Acura RDX? Check out BestRide.com’s local search here

2016 Acura RDX AWD Advance

Base price: $44,460

Price as tested: $45,400 (including $940 destination charge)

Likes:

  • Powerful engine, slick-shifting transmission
  • Exceptionally comfortable front seats
  • Easy-to-use technology features

Dislikes:

  • Mild driving personality
  • Selective availability of AcuraWatch active-safety features

 

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